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Plagiarism and Fanfic, or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned to Write Slash - Mo's Journal
August 25th, 2005
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Plagiarism and Fanfic, or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned to Write Slash
I'm thinking about plagiarism lately. There was a rather blatant bit of plagiarism on fanfiction.net that got brought to the attention of a list I’m on. Someone took a story (also on ff.net), copied and pasted, changed one of the characters’ names, changed the title, and presented it as her own. Many reviews have been posted complaining about that and complaints were made to the site owner as well, but it looks like nothing has been done to remove it or censure the author. marag also mentioned finding a similar act of plagiarism recently on her journal. I’m sure we can all agree that this practice is unethical.

So many practices, though, are not so clear cut.

We are, after all, using other people’s characters and settings. That’s the nature of fanfic.

I write X-Men movieverse. The characters belong to Marvel, the movie to Fox. I try to write my characters so they feel real and feel like the characters in the movie, even though I’m taking them places Marvel and Fox wouldn’t take them.

I’d like to think that Bryan Singer would recognize my Scott and Logan, even if he’d wonder what the hell they’re doing. I don’t feel like that makes me a plagiarist. How does what I do – what we all do – differ from the blatant examples above? Well, there have been fanfic writers more articulate than I am who have discussed that at length, in many posts defending fanfic against the accusation that we are just a bunch of plagiarists. I’d say there are two main differences:

• Value added (I don’t just retell someone else’s story; I go beyond what’s shown in the movie)

• Acknowledgement (I don’t pretend to have invented the characters or situations; I’m quite clear on what’s from the movie; I’m not “filing off serial numbers” and presenting this as original fiction.)

Much of the dialogue in my stories is drawn from real life (I always hasten to add that this does not include the dialogue during sex). Is this plagiarism? I don’t think so. I like to think of it as “having an ear for dialogue.” I did worry at first that people I’d quoted would be upset to see their words in the mouth of a half-insane clawed mutant or whatever, and would feel like I’m pillaging their lives for cheap fiction. In practice, though, any time someone recognized that bits of the dialogue had come from something that person said, the individual has been flattered and pleased that I was paying such close attention. Life’s funny that way.

Other blurry-line examples? I remember a long ago mailing list discussion about how we as authors would feel if someone wrote stories using our original characters. I was very much in the minority in saying I think I’d love it. I would definitely want the author to acknowledge that the character was mine, but I’d be really intrigued to see what someone else would do with Billy or Adam or Anjuli. Others said they’d worry that someone wouldn’t understand their characters, would get them wrong. I figure if I can write a gay Scott and make him believable, when that’s clearly something Marvel would view as wrong, why shouldn’t someone else try to write one of mine differently?

I’ve also mostly been flattered and pleased when ideas about the characters that I’ve originated gain currency and show up in others’ stories. I think quite often the writers aren’t “copying” per se, and I think they may not have even read my stories. Still, I do feel sort of influential when I see lots of stories where Logan's healing factor gives him a vanishingly short refractory period (even if nobody else calls it that) or Scott says “More than okay” all the time or has a history of teenage prostitution. I tend to think that even if the particular author didn’t read my stories that those ideas or peculiarities spread from my stories, since I was, as far as my research can determine, the first to use them. Maybe I’m flattering myself and they all came up with those independently. If so, I’m less influential than I think, but I like feeling influential, so don’t disabuse me of the notion. {g}

What wouldn’t I want someone to use of mine? My jokes! I don’t know why, but I think that’s the one thing that would bother me. Beyond that - and with acknowledgement - not much would.

I think we’re all quirky and different things bother different authors. Which brings me to How I Learned to Write Slash. I taught myself to write slash in part by rewriting someone else’s story. It’s an exercise used in Creative Writing classes all the time and I thought in my Creative Writing Slash Home School Project, I’d use it, too.

I found a story I really liked, a Scott/Logan one. It was a rewritten scene from the movie. For those who know the movie, it’s the scene where Scott confronts Logan in his bedroom and Logan asks “You gonna tell me to stay away from your girl?” The author wrote it starting like that, but then it diverges from what happens in the movie and they end up having sex. It’s first person, from Logan’s POV.

I rewrote it from Scott’s POV. My rules for myself were that all dialogue and action had to be exactly as she wrote it, but that the thoughts and feelings would, of course, be different, since it was a different person. I wrote it so that what Scott was thinking was really different from what Logan was thinking Scott was thinking. I really liked the end result. I thought it made an interesting companion piece to the original.

I sent my rewritten story to the author of the original, explaining how I had come to write it. I asked if she’d mind if I posted it to a slash list I was on, acknowledging her as the author of the original story. She said she did mind, and the idea of someone rewriting her stories made her uncomfortable. She asked me not to do it anymore (and I didn’t). She was very nice and polite and offered to read original fanfic for me if I wrote any. I never did send her any, but did go on to write a whole bunch of stories. And the central idea of my first series, I Know What You Are, came from doing that exercise. It didn’t come from her story, because it wasn’t in her story. It was the idea that Scott and Logan would end up in a sexual relationship where they were completely misunderstanding each other’s motivations. I definitely got the spark of that idea from rewriting that story.

I feel differently from the author whose work I rewrote. I think I’d really like it if someone reworked my stories, or wrote what happens in between stories or whatever. Not rewrote like the plagiarism example I started this post with, but really reworked and gave a different take on them, with acknowledgement.

This only happened once, and it was at my request. I got a fan letter from someone who really liked my series Canadian Nights, but asked for a happy ending rather than the one I wrote (Logan lies to Scott in the end and leaves him). I told her that the ending I wrote was the one I felt I needed to write, but I’d see if I could find her a happy ending, too. I asked two friends who beta’ed for me to write alternate endings. They did, and I sent them off to the requestor. I really enjoyed the alternate takes on the series, although I felt no urge to replace my ending with either of theirs.



After all that rambling, I do have some questions, if anyone reading this would like to weigh in:

• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?
• Rewriting your stories?
• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?
• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?
• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?
• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?

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From:hominysnark
Date:August 25th, 2005 03:25 pm (UTC)
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• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?

--I'm with you. I'd be flattered.

• Rewriting your stories?

--Okay by me. They'd probably be more interesting to read than my own.

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?

--Sure.

• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?

--Yeah, I would like to see that--not just for me, though, for anyone who was the inspiration.

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?

--Word-for-word copying. If you can't even be bothered to rearrange the words in the paragraph to make it somewhat your own, then you just might be too lazy to live. Same standards for original fiction. Some romance author--Janet Dailey, maybe?--got sued several years back for just such a thing.

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted?

--Grabbed the popcorn and settled in to read!
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:25 pm (UTC)
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So, you're pretty much free-for-all, although you like (but don't demand) acknowledgement. That's mostly the same as me. Interesting how varied responses are.

Same standards for original fiction.

But don't you think that the standards are a little higher (or leeway is a little less) for original fiction? Wouldn't it be plagiarism if I published as original material that I write in fanfic? I mean - in original fiction, generally using someone else's characters or even settings (e.g. a story set in Hogwarts but with none of the same characters) is plagiarism if not done with permission.

So, I think the standards have to be a little laxer in fanfic, don't you? And even for plot elements or character traits that are fanon, rather than canon, there's going to be some coincidence without actual copying, I think. As penknife points out in a comment to this post, there are just so many variations around and we're all working with the same source. So, for example, someone who writes Cyclops with the same characteristic verbal expressions I use probably got it from me (or from someone who got it from me). OTOH someone who writes him as having been a teenage hustler might have gotten it independently, coming up with a similar answer to the question we all ask: How the hell did he get to be like that?
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From:hominysnark
Date:August 25th, 2005 09:45 pm (UTC)
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This is what I get for being terse. ;)

I would apply the same standards to original fiction as regards to the word-for-word copying. Yes, using someone else's characters or settings and passing them off as your own is plagiarism. However, if you file the serial numbers down enough, you can create your own empire--see Terry Brooks, frex.
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 11:01 pm (UTC)
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Tell me about Terry Brooks...
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From:hominysnark
Date:August 26th, 2005 01:22 am (UTC)
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Well, his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, which was published in 1977 IIRC, was just LoTR with different folks. And a teeny little difference in plotline--the brave little hero, from the Vale instead of the Shire, had to face down the Dark Lord(TM) with the aforementioned sword, instead of just chucking a ring into a fiery pit. Of course, he had all kinds of help from Sam his brother, a wizard, a dwarf and various elves and humans.

It was, naturally, a blockbuster bestseller. He's now written myriad novels set in that world, some of them a bit more original than the first, but not really. I guess when SoS was published, just after the height of the Tolkien revival craze, no one cared if it was original or not as long as it made buckets full of money.
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From:mofic
Date:August 26th, 2005 01:38 pm (UTC)
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Interesting! I didn't even know there was a previous Tolkein revival craze, other than the one engendered by the movies.
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From:hominysnark
Date:August 26th, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, back in the late sixties/early seventies it found a whole new readership in the acid-dropping hippie crowd. (Tom Bombadil is nothing if not the ultimate stoner.) Led Zeppelin wrote at least two songs that reference it, "Ramble On" in which they specifically name Mordor and Gollum, and "The Battle of Evermore" which is more of a general big fantasy battle salute.
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From:mofic
Date:August 26th, 2005 03:42 pm (UTC)
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I guess I thought of Tolkein as just a standard, yk, as opposed to subject to revivals, until the recent film stuff. I know I read those books as a kid (because everyone else was - I never really liked them) but I thought of them as just standard books that get read in each generation. You learn something new every day!

Interestingly, none of my kids are into them, either, although we all love a lot of fantasy. Well, I got them started on some of them, since I read them the early HP books and Pullman's His Dark Materials and the Redwall books and a few others. Since I don't much like Tolkein I didn't read them to them. OTOH, I can't stand C.S. Lewis and my kids love him, so my tastes are not determinative.

I'll stop rambling now :-).
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC)
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If you rewrote a story of mine, acknowledged me as the author of the original, *and* asked permission to post it?

Yes, that's what I did. And said that I'd explain in the intro that I wrote it as a companion piece to the original story, that I did it as a writing exercise to teach myself to write slash, and that I chose that particular story because I thought it was extremely well done.


I'd certainly give you permission, and I'd be madly curious to see what someone else had done with my story. Also would be, as mentioned above: So. Very. Flattered.


Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to do that with your Peter/Stephen ones, which I've enjoyed so greatly. OTOH I've never done RPS. OT3H the more I see of them the less I'm completely sure they're real people.
From:gwynfyd
Date:August 25th, 2005 04:58 pm (UTC)
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After all that rambling, I do have some questions, if anyone reading this would like to weigh in:

• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?

Flattered, I think. It hasn't happened as far as I know. But the idea doesn't horrify me.

• Rewriting your stories?

No. This would bother me. I can't do anything to stop it, but I think it's a bit high handed. Writing a story in one of my worlds is flattering, I think. Perhaps taking my characters, and one of the situations and coming up with your own plot.

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?

I'm not sure I have originated any plot elements or character traits. If I have, these elements and/or traits don't belong to me, so knock yourself out.

• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?

I'd like it to be acknowledged if someone uses my original characters. The traits and elements I don't care about. If someone rewrites one of my stories, and says they did it because my story stinks and they're showing me how to do it, then screw them. :-)))

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?

Plagiarism is taking a huge chunk of someone else's work, and putting your name on it. There's no mystery here. No difference between fan fiction and any other kind. If I take a story by, say, Mary Renault, and put my name on it, that's plagiarism. If I take a story by Mary Sue Fanwriter, and put my name on it -- same thing. It's wrong. It's stealing.

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?

I'd have been uncomfortable, like the author you mentioned. I wouldn't have called you names, though, if you changed enough of the story to make it more original. That's what I would have suggested. Something along the lines of this:

"Please take the story you just wrote, and keep changing the dialogue, actions, and so forth, until it's more your own story. Then you can post it, acknowledge my story as the inspiration, and give me credit as a sort of co-author or beta or something."
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:31 pm (UTC)
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I think the variety of responses is very interesting, particularly to the rewritten story question. Some flattered, some uncomfortable. Both are really legitimate responses, I think. And, in case it wasn't clear, I want to say that when this happened the author was completely charming to me and in no way made me uncomfortable when she expressed her discomfort. I felt she was well within her rights to ask me not to post it and not to write any more stories based on hers, and I never did.
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From:penknife
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC)
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• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?

Would prefer that people ask first, but would probably be flattered. (And some people have pretty much blanket permission to use my characters or personal-fanon stuff, like artaxastra.)

• Rewriting your stories?

Again, I'd prefer someone ask first, but, again, if it's acknowledged as a remix/response to my story, I'm fine with it.

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?

I wouldn't mind at all; things have a tendency to creep into fanon, and that's fine, and in many cases the things that creep into fanon do because they're choices that make a lot of sense as extrapolations from canon. For fanon-y things like that, I don't care whether it's acknowledged or not, especially since once things spread it's sometimes hard to figure out who started them.

Now, if someone were setting a story within a series or AU of mine -- writing something that directly branched off from "Freefall" or "Fear the Rest" -- I would want them to make it clear that this is not an official sequel/part of the story, because I am still playing with those universes and I want to stay in control of what "really happens" in them. "Unofficial sequel" or "set in the universe of X but not part of the official continuity," I am fine with.

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?

With fanfic, I think it's important to keep in mind that there are plots and situations that everyone in fandom is going to write. The Fannish Hive Mind can produce stories that are fairly similar without any actual copying going on -- it's just that there are ten zillion "Erik and Charles play chess in prison" stories, and they're using the same characters and the same location and the same symbols that have been established in the movies, and so some of them are going to be a lot alike. Whereas with original fiction, if two stories were as much alike as two randomly chosen "Erik and Charles play chess" stories are likely to be, I'd definitely think something fishy was going on.

I really don't think it's plagiarism with fanfic unless someone is copying your exact words, or possibly copying the entire structure and detailed plot of a plot-heavy story (without credit to you).

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?

I would have said to post it, but asked you to call it a remix or somehow make it clear that you were using my dialogue. I would have been glad you asked before posting, though.
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
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With fanfic, I think it's important to keep in mind that there are plots and situations that everyone in fandom is going to write. The Fannish Hive Mind can produce stories that are fairly similar without any actual copying going on -- it's just that there are ten zillion "Erik and Charles play chess in prison" stories, and they're using the same characters and the same location and the same symbols that have been established in the movies, and so some of them are going to be a lot alike. Whereas with original fiction, if two stories were as much alike as two randomly chosen "Erik and Charles play chess" stories are likely to be, I'd definitely think something fishy was going on.

That's a very good point, and one I reference elsewhere.

I would have said to post it, but asked you to call it a remix or somehow make it clear that you were using my dialogue.
In case it wasn't clear, I did tell her that I would post it as a companion piece to hers that I'd written as a teaching exercise, and would say that I chose to use her story for that purpose because I thought it was so good.
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From:penknife
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:40 pm (UTC)
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In case it wasn't clear, I did tell her that I would post it as a companion piece to hers that I'd written as a teaching exercise, and would say that I chose to use her story for that purpose because I thought it was so good.

It probably should have been clear, sorry; I am multitasking a bit too much today. In that case, I'd have been totally fine with it. But I have had stories remixed before and enjoyed the process, which may help -- I know some people find the whole idea of having a story remixed disturbing.
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From:marag
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:24 pm (UTC)
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• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?

This has happened quite a few times and I was incredibly flattered. I have, in all cases, said yes when people asked, even if I thought they would do different things with the characters.

• Rewriting your stories?

As long as they asked (even afterward) and acknowledged mine, I'd be thrilled. I've participated in the Remix challenge a couple of times and it's *fun*! I love seeing how other people deal with the same situation.

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?

I wouldn't care. Many times it's parallel evolution anyway and if not, I'd be very flattered. I'd only be upset if they took my exact wording.

• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?

Mmm, I think it does to an extent. It's certainly polite to acknowledge.

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?

Pretty much the same standards: unacknowldged use of someone's exact words, characters, etc. Putting your name on someone else's story. (BTW, in the case I found, the site--not ff.net--has already removed the offending story.)

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?

I would have been flattered and urged you to post. I adore being remixed and anyone who wants to remix one of my stories is welcome, as long as I get a one-sentence acknowledgement.

A situation you didn't mention is writing sequels. I once had an idea for a sequel to someone else's story, so I wrote and asked her if she'd mind. She said she didn't, and I wrote the story, which I'm very fond of. I wouldn't have written it if she said no.

I've had one or two people ask if they could write sequels to a story of mine and I said yes, although I never saw anything posted.
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for your thoughts and the update on the plagiarism incident.

Sequels are an interesting addition indeed! I'd quite like to see sequels to my stories. Strangely, I've never been moved to write sequels to anyone else's, although I've certainly been writing sequels to the X-Men movies...
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From:mikou
Date:August 25th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC)
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• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?
I can be protective of my original characters, but given that all my fanfiction borrows from someone else's ideas, I wouldn't feel right attempting to deny someone the right to do the same to mine. And if they were doing it out of love for or interest in the character, I would be quite flattered.

• Rewriting your stories?
I'd prefer people didn't, but if they did, I wouldn't complain and I'd probably be curious to read what they did with it. If they were going to post it or share it, my only proviso would be acknowledgement of me as the writer that inspired them.

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?
I don't think I have any rights over plot elements or character traits. As long as they're not using an entire story outright or original character, without acknowledgement, they can be free to do what they want with it.

• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?
In all of the above cases, absolutely. If someone clearly used a character of mine or did a riff on one of my stories without acknowledging the source, I'd be livid and I'd talk to them about it.

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?
I would apply the same standards as for original fiction. I think fanfiction, while it may violate copyrights, doesn't nececssarily fall under the umbrella of plagiarism, if one acknowledges the original source of characters, plots, dialogue, et cetera. If someone lifts large sections of my story, verbatim, or if they use the same story idea (not just the theme, but the same or similar arc or sequence of events) I would count that as plagiarism. Can I do anything about it? Not legally, but if they didn't acknowledge me as a source, then I'd probably blow the whistle on them.

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?
I would never have insulted you or been nasty about it. That's just not my way. As in the 1st couple of questions, I'd be curious, maybe slightly uncomfortable, but mainly because I might worry that my story would suffer in comparison. As long as you gave me appropriate credit, I wouldn't object to you posting it unless I was already working on something similar. If I only had the *idea* of doing something similar, but hadn't written it out, I'd concede to you, of course. If mine were done or if I were still deadset on completing my unrealized idea, I'd probably just warn you about it and be careful that mine didn't sound similar to yours.

So, as long as the writer doesn't take without acknowledgement, I have a pretty laissez-faire attitude.
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 10:37 pm (UTC)
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So, as long as the writer doesn't take without acknowledgement, I have a pretty laissez-faire attitude.

Yes, even with those issues you aren't entirely comfortable with! I've really enjoyed the variety of responses to this. Everybody's nice :-) but there are a lot of different levels of comfort.
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From:eveningblue
Date:August 25th, 2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
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this is an interesting discussion. I've often felt the impulse to write in someone else's universe, but I've never gotten up the nerve to do it. Of course I would ask first. If someone bothered to come up with a universe, I wouldn't just pirate it away without asking.

I think I've assumed that people wouldn't like it, but I see here some people wouldn't mind. I've thought of sequels and missing scenes, in particular. Maybe someday...

the line between plagiarism and inspiration is a blurry one. I believe Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece in the New Yorker awhile back about a theatrical play he'd seen that used quotes from one of his articles. He wasn't sure whether to be angry or flattered, and when he confronted the playwright she was surprised. She thought she'd changed his words around, but it turned out she had used some verbatim, unknowingly.
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From:mofic
Date:August 25th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
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I've thought of sequels and missing scenes, in particular. Maybe someday...

Well, feel free to do so with mine, if you're so moved.

Oh and I loved that Malcolm Gladwell article. It really made me think about plagiarism and what it means. I find with him that I often don't agree with his answers, but I love the questions he asks. They're always very thought-provoking. Hate his politics, though...
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From:eveningblue
Date:August 25th, 2005 11:19 pm (UTC)

Gladwell

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I think he's a brilliant writer; I love reading his articles because I love following his thought progressions.

Don't know anything about his politics, and it sounds like I don't want to.

Well, feel free to do so with mine, if you're so moved.

Maybe I will, someday, but if so I will be sure to ask first!

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From:musamea
Date:August 25th, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC)
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• How would you feel about someone using your original characters?

N/A at the moment, since I've never written an OC into my fanfic universe, but if I ever do, I wouldn't mind someone using him or her in their own stories. I would appreciate it if the author asked or at least gave me a heads-up post facto (because I'd like to read the story *g*), but wouldn't require being asked for permission.

• Rewriting your stories?

I'd love it, I think, if it was an author whose work I was familiar with and who really had their own ideas about putting a new "spin" on the story. I'd be really excited that someone a) found the original story inspiring enough to do their own riff on it and b) could show me a different angle of the scene. I wouldn't want someone to do it as a shortcut (ie. "I can't think of a good conversation between Characters A and B, so I'll take so-and-so's").

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?

That's fine. I'd consider it a form of flattery, actually, if someone thought said trait meshed with the character or liked certain plot elements enough to want to incorporate them into his or her own stories.

• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?

If it's a rewrite of an entire story or a piece that clearly takes off from something I've written, I'd prefer it to be. If it's borrowing character traits, then no, I don't think acknowledgement is necessary.

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?

My MLA defines academic plagiarism as "the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind, and presenting it as one's own." I see no problem with applying that to fanfic as well. And no, I wouldn't apply different standards to fanfic than I do to original fiction. I don't care if it's Shakespeare or the worst Sue-thor around whose work is being plagiarized. Taking someone else's words and claiming them as one's own is plagiarism no matter what market it's in.

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?

I would want to read the story, first and foremost, I think. And whether my reaction would be "Er, I'd rather you not" or "Yay! Post!" would have depended a lot of what I thought about the piece, to tell the truth. This may sound a bit highminded, but I wouldn't want my story to be associated with a fic that's equal parts misspelled and mishandled. As I said before, if the author took the situation out of laziness, then I'd really rather not have the story posted. But if the author has something original to say about the characters and the situation, then I'd most likely enjoy their story and be the first in line to tell them to post (and to pimp it everywhere, like as not *g*) In a situation like the one you described, where the author used a story as a learning experience, my reaction would most likely have been the latter route.
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From:mofic
Date:August 26th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
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My MLA defines academic plagiarism as "the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind, and presenting it as one's own." I see no problem with applying that to fanfic as well. And no, I wouldn't apply different standards to fanfic than I do to original fiction. I don't care if it's Shakespeare or the worst Sue-thor around whose work is being plagiarized. Taking someone else's words and claiming them as one's own is plagiarism no matter what market it's in.

That's an interesting - and valid, I think - approach. And one that says that fanfic isn't plagiarism. So, what would it be if I were to try to publish my X-Men fanfic commercially? Not that I think there's a market for it, but just as an example. Answering my own question, it would be copyright violation (and perhaps trademark violation, as well) but not plagiarism. I think that's a good model. Thanks for your contribution.

Oh, and about:
I would want to read the story, first and foremost, I think. And whether my reaction would be "Er, I'd rather you not" or "Yay! Post!" would have depended a lot of what I thought about the piece, to tell the truth. This may sound a bit highminded, but I wouldn't want my story to be associated with a fic that's equal parts misspelled and mishandled.


And it's quite possible that that's what happened with the author I sent my story to, that she wasn't uncomfortable with the idea but just thought my story wasn't very good and didn't want hers associated with it. If so, it was particularly kind of her to just say she was uncomfortable with her stories being rewritten.
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From:musamea
Date:August 26th, 2005 05:50 pm (UTC)
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If so, it was particularly kind of her to just say she was uncomfortable with her stories being rewritten.

Definitely. There's no reason (or excuse) to be unkind to any writer who's looking to improve his or her craft. (Not that I think for a second your story wasn't high caliber *g*)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 27th, 2005 04:18 am (UTC)

Interesting questions...

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---OK, I am not sure what this is going to look like- the preview looks really weird, but here goes. I hope it is readable.--- Hey Mo. CC here. I thought I'd weigh in on your question even though I have not published any fan fiction...yet. Mainly I am a short story writer and I have written a story based in a shared world [Thieves' World] and used some of the established characters of that world in my story. So-


• How would you feel about someone using your original characters? Can't really whinge about it if I am going to write a story using other people's characters. And really, if my character{s} resonates strongly enough with another writer to inspire them to write about him/her I would be extremely flattered. So, go for it with this caveat- I really don't like stories purporting to be in the same universe/reality as the seminal work which give characters traits that are in direct opposition to already established 'reality' (i.e. making characters who we have only seen in straight relationships have always been gay and demonizing and degrading their past loves, making pacifists prolific killing machines, etc.). Therefore I would really like it if the writer would respect my characters. That is important.

• Rewriting your stories?

As long as the writer had something different to bring to the story that is not changing the story's intent then why not? I am interested to see what people get out of my stories. I am a firm and true blue supporter of authorial intent. I believe that to deny it is to disrespect someone who put heart and soul - not to mention ink - into their work, as any artist does. That being said, I also believe that once a story is read, it belongs to the reader. Many authors and lit teachers agree with me. Of course, many do not. If the other writer does want to change the intent of my story, then write a different scene, because it is not my story anymore even though it might be based on it or inspired by it.

• Using plot elements or character traits you have originated?

Again, go for it.

• Does it matter whether it’s acknowledged or not?

Yes, I spend a lot of time writing my stories and live with them and the characters who inhabit them. So yes, I would like to be acknowledged. Use of the term goddess however, is optional.

• What makes for plagiarism in fanfic? Would you apply different standards from those you’d apply to original fiction?

No! Depending on whether I am teaching Fiction Writing or Writing for College I spend either one whole period (WfC) or half a period (FW) discussing plagiarism and copyright and trafemakr You cannot ever use someone else's words deliberately as your own. I agree with the person who said it didn't matter if it was Shakespeare or a one-shot fan ficcer. Words are precious and personal. Now in academic plagiarism it goes even further, if you inadvertently use someone else's words you have still committed plagiarism. This is true even if you have reworded them but not acknowledged the source.

Writing is a discipline, a part of which is the understanding that you don't steal another writer's words. To my mind, deliberate plagiarism is theft. Now there have been fics, both fan and professional where words or ideas have been used inadvertently and that is a different matter. In that case when it is brought to your attention, you admit the mistake, give a hearty mea culpa, and acknowledge your inspiration.

• If you had been the author of the story I rewrote, how would you have reacted? Would you have been nice and polite? Called me a filthy plagiarist? Said to go ahead and post it? Something else entirely?
I think it would depend on the intent of the writer. You were very clear about your reasons for rewriting the story and respectful as well as thanking [to my mind] that person for writing a good story which you enjoyed. In that case, I would have had no problem with you posting the story.
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From:mofic
Date:August 27th, 2005 11:15 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting questions...

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Thanks for weighing in. As a writing instructor, you have a valuable POV.


Depending on whether I am teaching Fiction Writing or Writing for College I spend either one whole period (WfC) or half a period (FW) discussing plagiarism and copyright and trafemakr

What does trafemakr mean?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 28th, 2005 04:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting questions...

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Sorry. It means the ole carpal tunnel kicked in again. It was supposed to be trademark infringement.
From:violetglaze
Date:August 31st, 2005 02:00 am (UTC)
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Something about that first instance of your "plagarism" of the other person's story strikes me as the guy who calls the police to complain that someone stole his stolen goods.

I'd be flattered, personally. You're not famous until someone's stealing your mojo.

And at this point, with all us infinite slasher monkeys typing at infinite typewriters, someone's going to step on someone's "original" thought without meaning.


It's important to separate plagarism from inspiration. Removing a byline is plagarism. Writing a response to someone else's fic is inspiration. But when all is said and done, a couple of ASCII characters acknowledging a debt is all it takes to ward off hurt feelings.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I'll check that out. I'm way behind on metafandom.

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